New York City may never sleep, but keeping the power on all night is no small expense. Now the city is planning an upgrade that will save electricity and taxpayer dollars. On October 24, 2013, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city will be converting 250,000 street lights to energy-efficient LED bulbs by 2017, a move that is estimated to save $6 million in electricity and around $14 million per year for taxpayers once the transition is complete.

After partnerships with the Climate Group and the US Department of Energy and testing LED lights in parts of Central Park and bridges along the East River, New York City has begun what is expected to be the largest urban retrofitting of street lights with LED bulbs. Currently, street lights are powered with high-pressure sodium lights, which last about six years. LED lights last approximately 20 years, saving about $8 million per year in maintenance. The retrofitted street lights will also use significantly less electricity. A small test area on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn is expected to use 248,000 kilowatt hours fewer per year.

The retrofitting of street lights its part of the City's long-term sustainability program, PlaNYC, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from City government operations 30 percent by 2017.  New York City isn't the only major city adopting LED lights; last year Los Angeles completed a project to retrofit 141,089 street lights.

The light-emitting diode (LED) is one of the most energy-efficient and fastest developing lighting technologies. LED bulbs last longer, are more durable, and offer comparable or superior lighting quality to all other types of lighting. The bulbs are extremely efficient, and use up to 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent lighting. According to the Department of Energy, the widespread use of LED lighting compared to no LED use could save 348 terawatt hours of electricity by 2027, equivalent to the annual output of 44 large power plants, and $30 billion in savings. Part of the reason LEDs are so efficient is they emit very little heat. In comparison, incandescent bulbs release 90 percent of their energy through heat, and compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) release about 80 percent.

This project is not the first time New York City has broken new ground in urban energy efficiency. It was also the first large American city to install LED traffic signals, which resulted in 81 percent savings across the 12,700 intersections. This new LED project will not only help the city consume less electricity, but help keep city streets well lit and safe for its residents.

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